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Robots to Replace $15 per Hour QSR Workers


A previous report on EGG-NEWS described the limited ability of “Flippy”, a robot that can rotate hamburgers cooking on a griddle. The device was recalled for modification after a brief commercial trial since the module was not able to maintain a required throughput and it was difficult to integrate operation with cooks on a production line. New robots however are under development or undergoing evaluation and can perform a series of tasks replacing unskilled manual workers preparing hamburgers and related servings for QSRs.

An article in the July 14th The Economist describes the Creator which is integrated with a production line for gourmet burgers. The robot which is under test in San Francisco can grind meat, form and cook patties and add chopped tomatoes, grated cheese and dispense sauces. Customers can select their options using a tablet and Creator will deliver a packaged burger conforming to order. The robot has been in development since 2012 and can deliver 120 burgers an hour to customers’ specifications.

In Boston Spyce can deliver a variety of ethnic dishes within three minutes with a variety of ingredients cooked in woks. In China an entrepreneur has opened a restaurant Changsha, Hunan Province equipped with a robot that can cook 40 different recipes which are prepared and dispensed in a bowl with precision both with regard to ingredients, quantity and cooking temperature.

When the proponents of $15 per hour achieved their objectives through local ordinances in West Coast cities, it was predicted that robots would be developed to replace unskilled manual labor and ultimately swell the ranks of urban unemployed. Rather than earning an acceptable wage working on a food preparation line, individuals will be displaced by robots, much as automobile plant workers were rendered redundant by robotic welders, paint sprayers and quality inspectors.

Similar changes are occurring in egg-packing plants and in broiler processing facilities in the E.U. A few years ago this commentator visited an E-room with two 10,000 bph lines devoid of human presence. Robots do not take holidays, always report for work on Monday, are E-verify compliant and never join unions.

As the need for manual labor is reduced by mechanization and robotics, there will be a demand for employees with technical skills to operate and program teams of robots and to maintain and service these installations. This will require technical training. Community colleges and apprenticeship programs will hopefully produce the next generation of skilled plant workers. It is understood that technical training has received the attention of the U.S. poultry industry and that successful academic programs at land grant universities and other institutions which have proven successful will be paralleled in the form of apprenticeship training using the German model.